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Contested stoplight going up on MacDill

Opponents fear the light will bring traffic into a neighborhood. Supporters say it will slow and control traffic.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 22, 2003

A much-debated proposed traffic light is finally going up.

The new signal at MacDill Avenue and Estrella Street, just east of the Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club, should be working by the end of September, city traffic engineers said.

The city pushed ahead with the $70,000 device despite heated disagreement among residents, businesses, motorists and country club members.

City officials said it's needed so motorists westbound on Estrella can turn south on MacDill. And, they said, it's long overdue.

"It's been on the list since 1996," said city traffic engineer Debbie Herrington.

Only time will tell if the signal stops the feuding.

Debate continued last week, even as crews prepared to pour concrete for the signal's foundation and the country club realigned one of its driveways with Estrella.

Opponents fear the light will funnel more neighborhood traffic to Estrella and, at the same time, prompt frustrated motorists on MacDill to turn onto their kid-filled streets.

Some also grumble that had it not been for the country club's influence, the light would never have been nudged to reality.

"It's more convenience for their part," said Lori Jennis, president of the Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association.

Not so, city officials said. Even though the light will accommodate club traffic, the majority of affected motorists will be those turning onto MacDill from Estrella.

A country club manager did not return a phone call for comment.

Supporters think the signal will slow speeders on MacDill and better regulate rush hour.

"It will probably save lives," said Walter Horton, who lives on MacDill and often serves as an unofficial spokesman for Palma Ceia Park.

Horton acknowledged his position is at odds with many of his neighbors.

Farther east on Estrella, the city is moving forward with two new speed tables it wants to build to deter speeders at the curve where Mississippi Avenue turns into Estrella.

The first table, near the intersection of Arrawana Road, should be in place in six weeks, Herrington said. The second, near the intersection of Habana Avenue, is still under discussion.

Meanwhile, the city is continuing talks with homeowners for a sidewalk on the north side of Estrella.

"We're slowly getting consensus," Herrington said.

- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com

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